Were there any eyewitnesses to the deaths in Jonestown?

Of all of the Temple members who were alive in Jonestown when the deaths began on November 18, only seven survived. They included: three young white men – Mike Prokes and the Cater brothers, Tim and Mike – who were designated by the Temple leadership to take money, gold and letters to the Soviet Embassy in Georgetown; three black men – Stanley Clayton, Odell Rhodes, and Grover Davis – who elected not to participate and hid; and an elderly black woman, Hyacinth Thrash, who, by her own conflicting accounts, pretended to be dead when the cabins were searched for survivors or who had fallen asleep before the deaths began and appeared to be dead.

All seven returned to the United States over the next several weeks with other survivors – which this website defines as members of Peoples Temple who were in Guyana or elsewhere in the Caribbean on November 18 and who survived the deaths – and sought to return to the anonymity they had before the tragedy.

The least successful was Mike Prokes who, following several weeks of travel to visit former Temple members and relatives of the Jonestown dead, committed suicide four months later, in March 1979.

Grover Davis, who was 78 when the deaths occurred, lived in retirement until his death in 1993 of natural causes.

Hyacinth Thrash, who was 76, also lived in retirement and collaborated with Indianapolis author Marian Towne to write The Onliest One Alive. Thrash died in 1995 of natural causes.

Odell Rhodes provided his account of the deaths in Jonestown to Ethan Feinsod for the 1981 book, Awake in a Nightmare. He worked in California until ill health led to his retirement. He died in 2014.

Stanley Clayton, who had been rescued from the streets of Oakland by the Temple, returned to his former life and has spent much of the intervening years either with a drug dependency or in rehab. His account provided much of the narrative for the 1981 book, The Children of Jonestown, by Kenneth Wooden. He was also extensively interviewed by Julia Scheeres for her 2011 book, A Thousand Lives.

Mike Carter has a career and family, and lives in the Midwest. His writings for this site may be found here.

Tim Carter also has a family and a career, and lives in the Pacific Northwest. He has also been interviewed for numerous documentaries and for The People’s Temple, a play by Leigh Fondakowski (see coverage and reviews here). His writings for this site may be found here.

Answer uploaded January 2017

Last modified on February 17th, 2017.
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